With the new season due to start on Sunday, the CBA has made headlines around the world with the recent signing of big name NBA free agents like Kenyon Martin, J.R. Smith and Wilson Chandler. The Shanghai Sharks meanwhile, have enjoyed a low-key offseason, discreetly adding new pieces to their organisation, both on their playing staff but also on the management side.
Having allowed the popular Bob Donewald to depart, the new man at the helm is another American, Daniel Panaggio, the former coach of the LA Lakers farm team, the LA Defenders.
Panaggio, who had an extremely successful spell in the independent Continental Basketball Association, has arrived with intentions of playing the technically demanding triangle offense, made famous by the now retired Lakers legend, Phil Jackson. Though there have been some initial issues with the new style of playing, the Sharks finished their preseason strongly, beating Zhejiang Lions and Qingdao Eagles in eye-catching fashion.
Further underpinning an optimism that a new coach utilising a new approach will help improve the fortunes of the Sharks are a serious of canny acquisitions in the transfer market.
Indeed, the arrivals of Tseng Wen-ting and Ryan Kelly, though not as eye-catching as other CBA teams’ signings, look to be bargains in what has quickly become an inelegant scramble to sign expensive, out-of-contract NBA players.
Tseng, signed from Yulon Dinos in his native Taiwan, arrives with an impressive resume, having won four championships and two MVP crowns during his time in the island’s Super Basketball League and will add a muscular presence at eithier power-forward or centre.
Kelly, an experienced forward who can also play shooting guard, arrives for another spell in China, having been a key feature in Jiangsu Dragons’ charge to the CBA finals in 2004. The American has previous played under Panaggio and has turned in impressive performances in both of the Sharks’ last two pre-season victories and will be an important cog in making Panaggio’s new offense flow as smoothly as possible.
One final bit of tidy business that the Sharks can be proud of is the retention of forward, Mike Harris, who was consistently one of their most valuable players during the previous season and can make dunks and crucial three-pointers in equal measure.
All of the above can now be aligned with an array of potential Chinese game-changers in the form of guards Liu Wei and Peng Fei, and towering young centre Zhang Zhou. As a result, the Sharks have an extremely good chance of slipping under the radar but still have enough skilled personal to cause most teams in the league real problems.
With the first game of the season starting this Sunday (November 20th) against their pre-season rivals, Qingdao, the Sharks will hope to return to Shanghai after their three consecutive road games with at least one victory in the bank. The Sharks play their first home game on Sunday, November 30th against Chandler’s Zhejiang Lions.
In what promises to be the most memorable CBA season to date, Shanghai should consider themselves thrifty dark horses in a league where expensive one-year singings could make or break the chances of a number of contending teams.
Andrew Crawford is a blogger for sharkfinhoops.com, the only English website about the fortunes of the Shanghai Sharks.